Why an Emergency Fund is Important | Planning for Financial Emergencies
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Have you ever had an emergency pop up? Have you ever found yourself scrambling trying to find the money to cover it? Then you, my friend, need to start your Emergency Fund savings, or as I like to call it, my oh-$#*! fund.
Why is an Emergency Fund Important to Have?
Money, in general, is a huge point of stress for many people. The purpose of an emergency fund is to give yourself a buffer from those oh-$#*! moments, like losing your job, an unexpected death in the family– things that tend to be big ticket items that you wouldn’t necessarily have alot of warning about.
If you are a budgeting beginner or someone who has been budgeting for years, you need to start setting aside money for potential emergencies now!
How much emergency fund savings do I need?
If you’ve been poking around in finance even a little bit, you know there are a few different philosophies on how much is enough.
One of the most prevalent pieces of advice is having 3-6 months of savings put away. I know that’s a ton of money. We’ll dig into how to save it later, but for now, let’s stick to how much.
First, the difference between 3 months of salary and 6 months of salary is huge. A few different factors should be considered when deciding what’s right for you.
First, how steady is your job? What’s the likelihood you could be fired?
My brother is in the military and with that comes quite a bit of job security. He wouldn’t go to work one day and come home with 2-weeks notice, that’s just not how the military works. So 3 months would probably be sufficient for the kinds of potential expenses that could crop up for him.
Second, who is depending on you?
If it’s just you, maybe you have a little more wiggle room to make drastic cuts should they become necessary. Or perhaps you could move in with a friend or get a roommate should you suddenly find yourself out of work.
If you have a number of dependents, that’s quite a different situation. It’s been said that for every $10,000 you make in salary it will take you about a month to find another job. Go ahead and do the math on that one. Yeah, it could be awhile for you to find replacement work.
So in that scenario, you and your 3 kids would probably need the bigger cushion of 6 months put aside.
Third, what is your crisis budget?
If you don’t know what a crisis budget it, it’s just what it sounds like. If you find yourself in a crisis, what is your bare-bones budget? We’re talking going out of business, everything must go kinda budget.
You need to know this number!
Your crisis budget bottom line is the amount of money that you absolutely have to have to keep going. Rent, food, your fixed bills.
Once you’ve figured that out and where you fall between the 3 and 6-month saving mark, you’ll know how much money you need.
Are you trying to payoff debt?
Dave Ramsey is famous for his Baby Steps to Financial Freedom. One of his steps is to save $1000 as a starter emergency fund. (We’ll talk more about this below.)
You should decide for yourself what your financial priorities are and subsequently whether you want to have a starter Emergency Fund to put more money into debt payoff. Or if you want to push forward into a full fledged Emergency Fund.
Example of Emergency Expenses
Some common examples of emergency expenses:
- Losing your Job.
- Natural Disasters.
- Government Shutdown (government employees).
- Medical/ Dental Emergencies.
- Cost of living increases.
- Protect Your Savings.
- Major car repairs.
- Major household repairs.
- Unexpected travel for family emergencies, etc.
How to Plan for Financial Emergencies
You may be thinking, it’s going to take me a year or years to get to that level of savings!! What do I do about them now?
Glad you asked!
As quickly as you are able, meaning laser focus and making hard cuts if you have to, aim to save enough money to cover at least month’s expenses so you have a starter Emergency fund.
Not a months salary, but enough money to cover a month’s expenses.
If you follow Dave Ramsay, you know he advises a $1000 to start if you are still paying off debt and then move onto fully funding later. (Check out more Dave Ramsey money tips, if you are interested.)
While I understand the why, no real emergencies I can think of would be satisfied at $1000, so it kind of defeats the purpose– at least for my family.
You’ll need to do your own soul searching on how much you think is appropriate, but for the majority of emergencies that can pop up (aside from job loss), I could handle with one month’s crisis budget.
Either way, you need to have something put aside for emergencies as soon as possible!
Once you have your minimum Emergency fund in place you can reevaluate your priorities and decide if you want to diversify where you are putting money or continue on until your Emergency fund is fully funded.
Should I Use Credit Cards to Cover Emergencies?
Well, yes, you could use a credit card. However, chances are if you didn’t have the cash to cover the emergency, chances are you aren’t going to have the cash to pay the balance back on your credit card when it comes due.
Which means– interest. So not only are you paying out of pocket, you are then paying a little (or a ton depending on the repayment period) for this emergency.
I don’t know about you, but I hate throwing money out the window, which to me, is what interest payments are all about.
How to Save for Your Emergency Fund
We covered why you need an emergency fund, but now let’s talk about how to save it.
I’ll be honest. I’m a very goal oriented person, but I also appreciate little wins. Little wins keep me motivated. So for me, I have little challenges for myself.
You know what this is?
It’s $1000 in $20 increments. I can talk myself out of a lot of little $20 purchases. Every time I do, I get to color in one of those little circles. I love coloring them in so much! It’s so very gratifying for me to be able to really see my progress.
I have a couple of other saving printables that I’ve included in my Budgeting Bundle which you can find in my resource library.
If you want to know more about my budgeting bundle, check out my post for Budgeting Beginners.
Where to Keep Your Emergency Fund
You can save your money either in cash or a high yield savings account. Capital One has these fantastic Capital One 360 saving accounts (not a sponsored post and no affiliate) that I use for this type of thing, It’s also where I’m saving for sinking funds.
It’s no fee, requires $0 balance and has 1% APY (at the time of posting). Ally is another one I’ve used before. If you google high yield savings accounts, you can find some good options.
Automate Saving for your Emergency Fund.
Once you have any idea of how much you can commit to the Emergency Fund, pick a day (or a few) and have the money automatically taken out of your checking account.
The beauty of automating is you get to set it and forget it. You are not tempted to not contribute, you don’t miss the money that you never see.
Even if you can only spare $10 a month, something is definitely better than nothing. Just be consistent and keep with it and you will be successful.
Finding Money to Put Towards Your Emergency Fund
Hopefully, you already have an idea of what sort of money you have left over at the end of every month. If the answer to that is $0, then maybe its time to tighten the belt a little bit.
Maybe you can’t find $100 a month, but you can probably find $5 here or there.
There are also tons of side hustle opportunities!
If you are looking for some other fantastic ways to help find money for your Emergency Fund check out:
Amy from, Daily Successful Living: 48 Side Hustles That Will Help You Make Extra Money
Carly from, Mommy on Purpose: Side Hustles that Will Make You Money Immediately
Monica from, Lucky Mojito: Selling Our Way Out of Debt
Francesa from, From Pennies to Pounds: Side Hustles that Will Make You Money Now
B. from Boost My Budget: How to Make Money on Pinterest
Sara from, Gathering Dreams: 15 Creative Ways to Make $100 Every Day
Samantha from, Samantha Allaker: How to Earn Money as a Freelance Write from Day 1
What to Do Once You Have an Emergency Fund
First, go ahead and take a minute to give yourself a mental high five because WOW!
So you have 3-6 months of salary put away. What should you do next? Should you keep putting money away for an even bigger buffer? Splurge?
You could do either of those, but perhaps considering your long term financial goals would be a better and more prudent use of your money. *ahem*
- Do you have any debt hanging around that you could payoff?
- Interested in owning your own home?
- Need a new car?
- Retirement goals? Consider putting more money in your retirement accounts.
- Education goals or expenses for yourself or your family
If you haven’t started yet, I highly encourage you to start planning your Emergency Fund. Emergencies never happen when it’s convenient or when you expect it. So get started today!
Planning for Financial Emergencies: Why You Need an Emergency Fund